Tag Archives: difference

Picture jokes about Luis Suarez biting Branslav Ivanovic already on Twitter

Fancy a bit of All-Branislav Photoshop pranksters take to Twitter after Suarez bites Chelsea defender Ivanovic

By
Charlie Skillen

PUBLISHED:

01:21 GMT, 22 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

01:23 GMT, 22 April 2013

You've got to feel dorry for Branislav Ivanovic. No sooner have you calmed down from being bitten by Luis Suarez, now pictures making fun of your pain have been posted all over Twitter.

Chelsea defender Ivanovic was subject to a shocking attack by Suarez, who sunk his teeth into his opponent in the second half of the 2-2 draw at Anfield.

Collar: Perhaps this would stop Suarez biting, while (below) there's a cereal and a new film for the incident

Collar: Perhaps this would stop Suarez biting, while (below) there's a cereal and a new film for the incident

Bran

Gnaws

Chez Suarez: Which other footballers could be on the menu

Chez Suarez: Which other footballers could be on the menu

Not only did Suarez stay on the pitch, he scored an equaliser in the dying seconds of the match to snatch Liverpool a point.

To rub salt in the wound, Photoshop pranksters have taken to Twitter to make light of the incident with different mock-ups.

One shows the Chelsea defender on a packet of cereal – All-Branislav, of course – while another has the controversial Liverpool striker on the cover of shark flick 'Gnaws.'

That's not likely to be popular viewing in the Ivanovic household…

Spot the difference: Luis Suarez sinks his teeth into Branislav Ivanovic

Spot the difference: Luis Suarez sinks his teeth into Branislav Ivanovic

Luis Suarez appears to bite Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic

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Brian McDermott sacked by Reading – players informed by text message – Roberto Di Matteo emerges as favourite

Reading callously sack McDermott…and send the players a group text message to let them know with Di Matteo emerging as the firm favourite to replace him

By
Sami Mokbel and Sam Cunningham

PUBLISHED:

22:47 GMT, 11 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

23:57 GMT, 11 March 2013

Reading's shocked players learned boss Brian McDermott had been sacked yesterday when they all received a round-robin text message from the club.

A core group of senior players were said to be baffled and angered by the treatment of the manager who led them into the Premier League just 10 months ago, as last night former Swindon manager Paolo Di Canio emerged as an early contender to replace McDermott.

Former Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo has emerged as the leading candidate for the vacant position with large stakes placed on the Italian returning to English football at the Madejski Stadium.

*Scroll down to watch highlights of McDermott's final match in charge

Sacked: McDermott guided Reading to the npower Championship title last season

Sacked: McDermott guided Reading to the npower Championship title last season

The bottom six of the Premier League

The bottom six of the Premier League

Striker Jason Roberts said: ‘He’s a
football man and a good man and I just think at this moment in time we
take stock of what he has achieved and place on record our thanks.’

McDermott, 51, had been at the club
for nearly 13 years, first as Under 19 and reserve manager, then chief
scout before taking charge of the first team, and sent texts to friends
saying he was ‘devastated’ by the decision.

The Royals’ billionaire owner,
Russian Anton Zingarevich, took the decision after Saturday’s 2-1 home
defeat by Aston Villa, which left the club off the foot of the table on
goal difference.

Leading contender: Former Swindon manager Paolo Di Canio was spotted at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday and is the bookies favourite for the job

Leading contender: Former Swindon manager Paolo Di Canio was spotted at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday and is the bookies favourite for the job

Ruthless: Zingarevich (left) showed no quarter in sacking McDermott

Ruthless: Zingarevich (left) showed no quarter in sacking McDermott

The sacking was confirmed by a club
statement put out just minutes after the players all received the text —
which also ordered them not to speak to the media and said any comments
on Twitter should be pre-approved by club officials.

That didn’t stop Roberts talking,
while Noel Hunt tweeted: ‘Want to say thanks to Brian for everything he
did for me especially. He’s been a great manager, man and friend to me
and will be missed!’

Famous night: Shane Long scores for Reading against Liverpool at Anfield in 2010

Famous night: Shane Long scores for Reading against Liverpool at Anfield in 2010

Taking the applause: Shane Long salutes the Reading fans after the win

Taking the applause: Shane Long salutes the Reading fans after the win

Di Canio was installed as the
bookies’ favourite for the job after he was spotted at the Madejski
watching Saturday’s game (above) but Di Matteo could be offered the job tomorrow.

Former Russia boss Dick Advocaat,
currently in charge of PSV in Holland, is also believed to be on the
wishlist as Zingarevich aims to name a replacement before Saturday’s
trip to Manchester United.

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Roberto Mancini demands victory at Aston Villa

Defeat at Villa would be no laughing matter for Man City, warns Mancini

By
Andy Hampson, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

10:52 GMT, 2 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

12:02 GMT, 2 March 2013

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has told his players their impressive win over Chelsea counts for nothing if they fail to beat struggling Aston Villa on Monday.

The champions have responded well since a dismal defeat at Southampton all but ended their hopes of retaining their Barclays Premier League crown last month.

City thrashed Leeds in the FA Cup and deservedly overcame then third-placed Chelsea 2-0 but leaders Manchester United remain in complete control of title race.

Is that you, Joe Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart sports some fancy dress for Comic Relief

Is that you, Joe Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart sports some fancy dress for Comic Relief

In on it: Midfielder Gareth Barry strikes a pose for the cameras

In on it: Midfielder Gareth Barry strikes a pose for the cameras

Support: Jack Rodwell and his team-mates are promoting Red Nose Day by sporting Eighties wigs

Support: Jack Rodwell and his team-mates are promoting Red Nose Day by sporting Eighties wigs

Nice do: Right back Pablo Zabaleta shows off his three noses and a suspect haircut

Nice do: Right back Pablo Zabaleta shows off his three noses and a suspect haircut

Mancini's men next travel to struggling Villa knowing any they cannot afford to let the intensity drop.
The Italian said: 'For us, it will be important. If we don't beat Aston Villa, it is like we didn't do anything against Chelsea.

'For this reason it is important to beat Aston Villa and afterwards continue to go.

'The season is not finished. It is impossible we can think it is finished now.

'There are 11 games to the finish. It is our job to play all the games 100 per cent and try to win always.'

City and Mancini, of course, have experience of chasing apparent lost causes having memorably fought back to pip United to the title on goal difference last season.

Mancini said: 'I was not strong in mathematics in school, but with 11 games to play – 33 points – everything is possible.

'Last time we won the title from six games to go, eight points (behind). I think everything is possible.'

City captain Vincent Kompany seems unlikely to return to action at Villa Park.

The Belgium defender has missed five games since suffering a calf injury in the FA Cup fourth-round win at Stoke just over a month ago.

It had been hoped the 26-year-old could return against Chelsea but the problem has lasted longer than expected and Kompany has also had trouble in his opposite calf.

Mancini has not yet ruled him out for Monday but the cup quarter-final against Barnsley next week is now looking a more realistic comeback target.

One giant leap: Hart puts in some work in training earlier this week

One giant leap: Hart puts in some work in training earlier this week

Weight of expectation: Joleon Lescott powers through his session at the Carrington gym

Weight of expectation: Joleon Lescott powers through his session at the Carrington gym

Mancini said: 'Vinny is getting better in this moment.

'We hope we can recover him for the next game. We will try for Aston Villa for Monday but it is difficult because he did not train with the team, he trained with the physio.

'We hope for the FA Cup. The calf is a difficult injury because you think you are okay and then you have a problem. The calf is a strange injury.'

Former Villa midfielder Gareth Barry should be fit to face his old team after two games out with an ankle injury.

Mancini said: 'He has trained with the team the last two days and I think he will be ready.'

Meanwhile, the City players pitched in to do their bit for Comic Relief. Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Jack Rodwell and Barry donned suspect Eighties haircuts and put on red noses to show their support for the cause.

Wigan hoping for repeat win over Manchester United – Roberto Martinez

'Desperate' Wigan are out to repeat historic victory over United, warns Martinez

|

UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 31 December 2012

May 13, 2012, will go down in Premier League history as the day Manchester United lost the title on goal difference with practically the last kick of the season.

Those who witnessed United's alarming collapse over those final few weeks, however, know that it began long before Sergio Aguero's unforgettable goal for Manchester City left Sir Alex Ferguson and his players bereft on the pitch at Sunderland.

April 11, to be precise. United were eight points clear with six games left and odds-on for the title when the wheels began to come off on a fateful Wednesday night at Wigan, Shaun Maloney's second-half strike condemning the champions to a shock 1-0 defeat that turned the title race.

Desperate: Wigan has warned Sir Alex Ferguson that his Wigan side are desperate for points

Desperate: Wigan has warned Sir Alex Ferguson that his Wigan side are desperate for points

United go back to the DW Stadium on Tuesday with a seven-point advantage knowing they can ill afford another slip with second-placed City once again leading the chase.

Roberto Martinez is convinced the secret behind one of the most famous results in Wigan's history was sheer desperation to win points in their own battle against relegation, which made his players focus on their own game rather than the calibre of their opponents.

Worryingly for United, the Wigan boss believes they are just as desperate this time around.

'Nobody could have expected what was going to happen in the following weeks,' said Martinez. 'But last season we had such a massive need to get points we couldn't afford to look who we were playing against. Too many times in the past we'd played Manchester United and that affected us.

'That day we learned we had to play Wigan Athletic.

Next in town: Alex Ferguson and his players will try to avenge last season's defeat at the DW

Next in town: Alex Ferguson and his players will try to avenge last season's defeat at the DW

In the spotlight: Ashley Young and Co will be expected to leave with all three points

In the spotlight: Ashley Young and Co will be expected to leave with all three points

'The desperation factor is still there. We need to understand that 18 points at this stage of this season is desperation.

'We're not happy with that points tally, it's nowhere near good enough. There is desperation going into every game left at home this season, and Manchester United is no different.'

Wigan's impressive financial figures for the year ending May 31, released on Monday, underline the gulf between the two clubs. Despite adding to the squad, their wage bill has dropped to 37.7million compared to a whopping 160m paid out at Old Trafford.

Soaring: Wigan battered Aston Villa 3-0 away from home

Soaring: Wigan battered Aston Villa 3-0 away from home

Easily done Emmerson Boyce celebrates after scoring the second at Villa Park

Easily done Emmerson Boyce celebrates after scoring the second at Villa Park

Indeed, before Maloney's stunner in April, United had never dropped so much as a single point to their opponents in 13 encounters. The aggregate score for the previous five was 21-0.

Normal service was resumed when United won 4-0 at Old Trafford in September, and Martinez has warned his players not to dwell on the events of last season.

'It would be very dangerous to think what happened that day will happen again,' he said. 'If we do that we're in for a very long game.

'We have that recent picture of what's required to beat a team like Manchester United but I don't think the result last season will change the way they approach the game.

'They're going to come here believing they're the team that's going to win the title and to get the three points. You need to overcome that feeling of superiority.'

Remember this, Fergie Shaun Maloney fired home the decisive goal last season

Remember this, Fergie Shaun Maloney fired home the decisive goal last season

Remember this, Fergie Shaun Maloney fired home the decisive goal last season

If there is any encouragement for Wigan, it is that an alarming number of the 28 Premier League goals conceded by United this season have been against teams in the bottom half of the table.

'We've conceded 28 and it's only New Year,' said Ferguson. 'I remember one season with Peter Schmeichel we conceded a lot less than that over the whole season.

'We're stretching ourselves all the time. We've been forced to up the ante all the time because we're losing goals. If we stop giving them away we've got a great chance.'

Jonathan McEvoy reflects on British sport in 2012

'Unforgettable'… Jonathan McEvoy reflects on the greatest ever year of British sport

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UPDATED:

23:11 GMT, 27 December 2012

The lessons of a sporting lifetime were stood on their head in seven unforgettable months between the late spring and mid-winter of 2012.

Even if you were born in the immediate pre-War years, you knew no British chap could ever win a Grand Slam tennis tournament.

Think of the Olympics and the home-grown heroes were so conspicuously few that they were marked out for life. The Tour de France was marvelled at for its epic climbs but was still as Gallic as Brie and Bordeaux.

Outstanding: London 2012's opening ceremony reflected a superb year of sport

Outstanding: London 2012's opening ceremony reflected a superb year of sport

India’s cricketers traditionally dominate on the subcontinent. Our rugby lads had recently distinguished themselves at dwarf-throwing and little else. As for Manchester City, they had not won the title since Noah was a boy.

All this contributed to talk of vulnerability in the country’s competitive psyche. We had grown weary of the plucky-loser narrative but were still searching for a remedy when this annus mirabilis began.

Even the Barclays Premier League, the foremost sporting phenomenon of the past two decades, was losing a little of its lustre to Spain’s La Liga. But it was on the concluding, heart-stopping, see-sawing day of the season that the national game set the dramatic standard for the summer that was to come.

Sunday, May 13, 2012, the Etihad Stadium. The seemingly simple requirement for City to end their 44-year wait for the title was to beat Queens Park Rangers, the team with the worst away record in the League.

Champions: City finally secured the title in the most dramatic fashion possible

Champions: City finally secured the title in the most dramatic fashion possible

That would render a Manchester United win at Sunderland irrelevant, save a mathematical miracle. As we now know, City won 3-2 to finish top on goal difference. Mark Hughes’s QPR, who knew they would avoid relegation unless Bolton beat Stoke, stayed up. But those bare facts do not tell a fraction of the ebb and flow we will now briefly relive.

City had printed T-shirts with ‘Champions’ on but that seemed premature after Djibril Cisse cancelled out Pablo Zabaleta’s opening goal and Jamie Mackie’s magnificent header put QPR 2-1 up. United were winning 1-0. So dire were the portents at this stage for City that the catering trolley — pizza, pastries, and muffins — arrived in the dressing-room minus champagne.

David Platt, City’s assistant manager, who carried little son Charlie on to the pitch pre-match for his I-was-there moment, asked himself: ‘How has this happened’

Fans leave, some in tears. On the bench, City midfielder Gareth Barry spots a helicopter and thinks, wrongly, that the Premier League trophy is being taken to Sunderland. Micah Richards, an unused sub, is in the dressing room on his hands and knees.

But in the 90th minute, Edin Dzeko’s header makes it 2-2. Three minutes and 46 seconds of added time remain. Once-disconsolate fans turn back.

Saviour: Aguero's last-gasp goal was that which won City the Premier League

Saviour: Aguero's last-gasp goal was that which won City the Premier League

The Stoke-Bolton game is over and QPR know they are safe. Their supporters celebrate. And then, Sergio Aguero is played in by Mario Balotelli — a decisive and often overlooked contribution by the petulant one — to score the winner. Ecstasy is limitless. One press officer jumps on to the shoulders of a steward. Or — as it turned out — a doping official.

Jubilant manager Roberto Mancini is greeted by father Aldo, who has travelled from Italy despite heart problems. This afternoon can hardly have helped the old fellow’s ticker.

After a 10-month season the destination of the title was decided in a few fevered seconds. In Sunderland, Sir Alex Ferguson could hear the din generated by his noisy neighbours. On returning home it is understood he told Lady Ferguson he could not now retire for another year.

City, despite the influx of distorting money, had many neutrals with them. Chelsea, on the other hand, test the sympathy of all non-partisans. There was John Terry, found guilty of racism by the FA if cleared in a court of law. This was before his club made their own casual accusations of racism against later exonerated referee Mark Clattenburg.

Put that calumny together with the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo months after winning the Champions League and you could say Stamford Bridge has a knack of making itself look a basket case.

In the dock: John Terry's court case was one of the year's biggest negatives

In the dock: John Terry's court case was one of the year's biggest negatives

Still, credit where due for their vanquishing of Europe. After beating Barcelona — the team of another joy-giver of 2012, Lionel Messi, scorer of 91 goals over the year — they faced Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. Resolute but outplayed, Chelsea equalised with two minutes left through Didier Drogba.

Then Drogba, perhaps the ultimate terrace hero of Chelsea’s Russian roubles era, rolled in the winning penalty, his final act for the club. The Abramovich project had found its Holy Grail. And, yes, an English team had beaten a German team in a penalty shootout. We said this year was something novel.

Via a one-line mention of England’s negligible impact on the European Championship and Spain’s gracing of the tournament with a bedazzling brand of football, we move on to the boys of summer.

Bradley Wiggins was our first individual conqueror of the Olympic preamble. ‘I told my teacher there were two things I wanted to do when I grew up,’ Wiggins recalled. ‘I want to wear the Tour de France yellow jersey and win an Olympic gold medal. She told me I must be mad.’

Against the odds: Chelsea battled to an unlikely Champions League title

Against the odds: Chelsea battled to an unlikely Champions League title

Well, he is a little bit. Which road cyclist isn’t He has suffered despair and hit the bottle but self-sacrifice is a key ingredient of success. That means there are times he drinks water while wife Cath tucks into a club sandwich. His diet is so controlled that a package of food arrives each day. He eats out of the cartons supplied, perhaps a box of rice.

He is a 6ft 3in jockey, down from 82kg (12st 13lb) — his weight when he competed on the track at the Beijing Olympics four years ago — to 72kg (11st 5lb) for this year’s crusade, the third attempt by the British-run Team Sky to win the Tour de France.

Wiggins took the yellow jersey for the first time in his life on stage seven. He was then dominant in the mountains where the defending champion Cadel Evans had been expected to ask the hard questions. Wiggins ended up riding into Paris unassailable, his hands in the air down the Champs-Elysees.

No Briton had won the Tour in its 109-year history. He had done it, as far as every expert and all our instincts knew, clean of drugs. That was even more important after Lance Armstrong was stripped of his saintly reputation by the US Anti-Doping Agency in October. Their boss Travis Tygart is another hero of 2012.

Leading the way: Wiggins became Britain's first Tour de France champion

Leading the way: Wiggins became Britain's first Tour de France champion

Wiggins was still haunted by the crimes of the Nineties and the very Naughties, with malicious gossipers implying he was on the illegal juice. This is what he thought of those accusations: ‘It’s easy for them to sit there on Twitter under a pseudonym and write that sort of s*** rather than get off their own a**** and work hard to achieve something.’

Well said. But he could act as a sportsman as well as a straight-talker, slowing the peloton when tacks thrown on the road caused a puncture to Evans. The French called Wiggins Le Gentleman. Thankfully an eschewer of celebrity, sometimes unnecessarily caustic, he is certainly Monsieur Quirky. We hail him for his foibles and his brilliance. And to think Mark Cavendish, our fabulous sprinter, began 2012 as the pre-eminent name in British road cycling, to the extent that Wiggins was asked earlier in the year: ‘Do you think you’re the forgotten man’

Wiggins won Sports Personality of the Year and, in the view of this observer, rightly. The addition of his Olympic time-trial gold medal made his case irresistible. However, there was also a fine argument advanced on behalf of Andy Murray, who became Britain’s first male Grand Slam winner for 76 years.

Before that, Murray lost the Wimbledon final to Roger Federer before making one of the most lachrymose speeches centre court has witnessed. But back for the Olympics, he avenged that result.

Tears: Murray could not hide his emotion after losing the Wimbledon final

Tears: Murray could not hide his emotion after losing the Wimbledon final

My belief is that tennis — like football with its World Cup — should be axed from the Olympics as it does not represent the zenith of the sport. Yet Murray’s straight-sets gold-medal win over the Swiss master was gripping. It was the most popular BBC iPlayer broadcast of the Games.

With his latest coach, Ivan Lendl, an unsmiling and unforgiving presence, there seemed a hardening of Murray’s spirit where he might previously have made a drama out of a twinge. No less than Novak Djokovic detected a fraction more aggression in his rival’s play.

Finally, at Flushing Meadows, Murray (right) made his talent and flair work for him, beating the approving Djokovic 7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 after four hours and 54 minutes of sapping combat to win the US Open.

He had accomplished his lifetime’s ambition during tennis’s golden age. The Federer-Rafael Nadal duopoly was legendary and enduring even before Djokovic intervened by superseding them as No 1. The company Murray keeps is a measure of the player.

In golf, Rory McIlroy was touched by the angels. He was also the scamp chewing on an energy bar on that unforgettable Ryder Cup day. The crowd shouted, ‘How’s the hangover, Rory’ as he arrived on the last morning scarily close to his tee-time, having apparently muddled up the time zones.

Breakthrough: Murray finally won his first Major at the US Open

Breakthrough: Murray finally won his first Major at the US Open

I was a touch suspicious, but journalistic friends there assure me his excuse was genuine. No practice, no matter, he breezed to an outward nine of 32. He and his European team-mates, with Ian Poulter at the heart and soul of the revival, were enacting the Miracle at Medinah.

At the end of Saturday with the home team leading 10-6, one American sports journalist, Gene Wojciechowski, wrote: ‘For those who think this Ryder Cup is finished, think again. Team Europe can still win if the following five things happen Sunday: 1. Keegan Bradley is abducted. 2. Team USA captain Davis Love III inserts Cup spectators Michael Jordan, President George W Bush, Amy Mickelson and the Rev Jesse Jackson into the singles line-up. 3. Lee Westwood: US citizen. 4. Marty McFly shows Team Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal how to go back in time. Last Friday morning will do. 5. Team Europe wins eight of the remaining 12 matches to retain the Cup.’

Oh dear, even if we did share the broad sentiment. Around the country, people stuck with Sky’s gripping coverage as the clock ticked towards midnight. It dawned on us that Europe could accomplish the greatest victory in the 85-year history of the competition.

Cheers filled every sitting room as Martin Kaymer holed from five feet to seal a 14-13 win. Jose Maria Olazabal had gone from much-questioned captain to smiling hero. He had honoured the memory of great friend Severiano Ballesteros.

McIlroy’s personal accomplishments also evoked Ballesteros. His victory at the US PGA made him the youngest multiple major winner since the great Spaniard 32 years earlier. McIlroy’s margin of victory was eight shots, just as at the 2011 US Open.

Shock: Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy celebrate Europe's Ryder Cup triumph

Shock: Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy celebrate Europe's Ryder Cup triumph

His triumph came after a mini-slump, which he laudably ascribed to having taken his eye off the ball. Chivalrously, he refused to blame tennis-playing girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki for providing the distraction. He ended the year as world No 1 and golf’s greatest attraction since Tiger Woods drove into a fire hydrant.

The equine star of 2012 was Frankel, who retired from Flat racing with 14 wins from 14 races. Twice he won by 10 lengths or more, including at Royal Ascot this year. He ranks among the greatest horses ever bred. Still, we were nervous at the start of his final race, the Champion Stakes. Rain had threatened to spoil the script. Anxiety was heightened when he made an awful start.

But we are talking about 2012, the year when everything went right. So he and jockey Tom Queally recovered to sign off in style. It was a poignant day because his celebrated Dr Dolittle of a trainer, Sir Henry Cecil, was fighting cancer.

Untouchable: Frankel saw off all competition

Untouchable: Frankel saw off all competition

Sir Henry was in the paddock, his voice a whisper, his manners exemplary, every autograph-hunter obliged. Work done, Frankel went off to Banstead Manor Stud for several hundred assignations. Cecil left with everyone’s wishes for a reprieve. Speaking of the future, it was announced that the other wonder-horse of the era, steeplechaser Kauto Star, is destined for a second career in dressage, which seems a trifle dainty for such a fine beast.

As the nights drew in here, England’s rugby team came up with perhaps the year’s least expected victory. As New Zealand came to Twickenham, one of the All Blacks staff enquired where they should stand when they collected the winners’ Hillary Shield.

But England prevailed, 38-21. It was one of the finest performances at HQ, all the more remarkable for the defeats against Australia and South Africa that preceded it. A watershed or a fabulous one-off We look to the Six Nations and beyond for the answer.

Flying: England surpassed all expectations by beating the All Blacks

Flying: England surpassed all expectations by beating the All Blacks

And then, finally, 2012’s Indian summer. Brought down to earth by South Africa a few months earlier — with Graeme Smith causing a third England captain, Andrew Strauss, to perish during his long and brutal reign — our cricketers were now led by Alastair Cook.

He faced the task of winning on the dusty graveyard of so many tourists. England lost the first Test and won the second magnificently. Cook scored stoic centuries in both. Then in the third Test, in Kolkata, he swept from outside his off-stump for three runs. His century was up — the 23rd of his Test career, more than any other Englishman. It eclipsed a record set by Wally Hammond 73 years earlier.

Cook had beaten the showboating and recently quarrelsome Kevin Pietersen to the mark. Who could begrudge the unshowiest of captains his reward The series — and the team’s peace with Pietersen — followed.

Leading by example: Cook captained England to victory in India

Leading by example: Cook captained England to victory in India

It was a final confirmation that 2012 has been the year British sport delivered even when the result appeared to be getting away.

You could almost put your mortgage on our teams, and how often have we been able to say that Forgive the amateur philosophy but 2012 might just have changed the country’s relationship with sport. At least for now.

Chelsea 8 Aston Villa 0 and how other Premier League whipping boys recovered

After Aston Villa's Stamford Bridge slaughter, Sportsmail looks back at how other whipping boys recovered

|

UPDATED:

13:53 GMT, 24 December 2012

As far as Aston Villa fans feel today, the Mayans got it right. It is the end of the world.

The 8-0 thrashing at Chelsea has smashed the feel-good mood to smithereens with boss Paul Lambert facing a major rebuilding job this week for the arrival of Tottenham on Boxing Day.

In practical terms, Villa’s goal difference has taken a dramatic hit – it’s the worst in the Barclays Premier League while they are only three points above the relegation zone.

Feeling Blue: Aston Villa were 'beaten up' by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

Feeling Blue: Aston Villa were 'beaten up' by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

But the game at Stamford Bridge followed a six-match unbeaten run and the club are in the semi-final of the Capital One Cup where they face Bradford.

So can a big beating be terminal Not necessarily, although the signs are not promising for the Spurs game. To borrow a word coined by Iain Dowie, it’s all about bouncebackability.

Since the Premier League started there have been 11 thumpings of seven or more goals, not including Sunday.

I eight Christmas: Villa's thrashing was the biggest of the season so far

I eight Christmas: Villa's thrashing was the biggest of the season so far

During that time, only one team recovered to win their next match and that was Wigan, who lost 9-1 to Spurs then beat Sunderland 1-0 at home in 2009.

But the good news for Villa is that only four of the 11 losers went on to be relegated that season. Here's the bounceback index…

Manchester United 9 Ipswich 0, March 1995

Next match: Doomed Ipswich went on to lose 3-0 at Spurs.
Final position: 22nd (relegated)

Cloud Nine: Manchester United hold the record for the biggest win in Premier League history when they battered Ipswich 9-0 at Old Trafford in 1995

Cloud Nine: Manchester United hold the record for the biggest win in Premier League history when they battered Ipswich 9-0 at Old Trafford in 1995

Blackburn 7 Nottingham Forest 0, November 1995

Next match: Having been crushed by the champions of England, Forest then drew 1-1 at home to Manchester United.
Final position: 9th

Nottingham Foret 1 Man United 8, February 1999

Next match: A hugely demoralised Forest side lost 2-1 at West Ham.
Final position: 10th (relegated)

Newcastle 8 Sheffield Weds 0, September 1999

Next match: Back to the north-east and a 1-0 defeat at Sunderland, which was their sixth successive loss.

Final position: 19th (relegated)

Seven heaven: Arsenal battered a Everton side who ended up finishing fourth in the Premier League

Seven heaven: Arsenal battered a Everton side who ended up finishing fourth in the Premier League

Manchester United 7 Barnsley 0, October 1997

Next match: Playing like Brazil didn’t do the one-season wonders much good, but they did well to draw 1-1 at home to Blackburn after the Old Trafford mauling.
Final position: 19th (relegated)

Arsenal 7 Everton 0, May 2005

Next match: Having been thumped in the penultimate game of the season by Arsenal, David Moyes’s team then lost the final match 3-2 at Bolton.
Final position: 4th

Arsenal 7 Middlesbrough 0, January 2006

Next match: Steve McClaren's side might have been marching on in Europe but their domestic form took a dip. They lost the next game 3-2 at home to Wigan.
Final position: 14th

Middlesbrough 8 Manchester City 1, May 2008

Next match: City
had a summer to get over the defeat, which was the third on the bounce
to end the season on a low. The opening day of the following campaign
was a 4-2 defeat at Aston Villa.
Final position: 9th

Unhappy: City fans were left reeling by a final day thrashing at Middlesborough

Unhappy: City fans were left reeling by a final day thrashing at Middlesborough

Unhappy: City fans were left reeling by a final day thrashing at Middlesborough

Tottenham 9 Wigan 1, November 2009

Next match: Perennial relegation fighters Wigan are the only team to show proper bouncebackability. Crushed by Tottenham, they beat Sunderland 1-0.
Final position: 16th

Chelsea 7 Stoke City 0, April 2010

Next match: Tony Pulis probably stripped wallpaper with his voice after the defeat at Stamford Bridge. The players recovered a little and drew 0-0 at home to Everton.
Final position: 11th

Chelsea 8 Wigan 0, May 2010

Next match: The champions of England ripped apart Wigan on the last day of the season so there was plenty of time to lick wounds. However, the first match of 2010/11 Wigan lost 4-0 at home to newly-promoted Blackpool.
Final position: 11th

Manchester City could be the new invincibles

We are invincible: Mancini's men can't match Arsenal's record but have the same mentality

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UPDATED:

22:10 GMT, 23 December 2012

Defeat in a dramatic Manchester derby earlier this month means that Roberto Mancini and his players can no longer match Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’, but it would be wrong to assume they do not feel invincible.

It has become a hallmark of Mancini’s Manchester City. There is something about the relentless way they pursue their objective that is typical of neighbours United and that celebrated Arsenal team of 2003-04.

They create the sense that a goal is inevitable, breathing belief into City and dread into their opponents.

Belief: Gareth Barry's (in blue, second left) late goal against Reading is the latest evidence of Manchester City's refusal to give up

Belief: Gareth Barry's (in blue, second left) late goal against Reading on Saturday is the latest evidence of Manchester City's refusal to give up

People will always remember the late efforts from Edin Dzeko and, of course, Sergio Aguero that clinched the Premier League title for City on goal difference in May, but the sort of mentality Mancini demands of his players has been a work in progress for some time.

Think back to last season. The late winners against Tottenham and Chelsea; the later equaliser against Sunderland. Without those points, the last-day heroics would never have been possible.

The trend has continued this season. Late goals in the first two games enabled City to pick up four points.

Dzeko’s last-gasp winners against Fulham, West Bromwich and Spurs could prove invaluable.

Super-sub: Late goals by Edin Dzeko (right and below) against Fulham, West Brom and Spurs have proved invaluable

Super-sub: Late goals by Edin Dzeko (right and below) against Fulham, West Brom and Spurs have proved invaluable

City are displaying that trademark of champions: a knack of winning without playing particularly well.

On Saturday, it was Gareth Barry’s turn to pop up in the 92nd minute and snatch a 1-0 victory over stubborn Reading. ‘You have to believe,’ he said.

‘Turning one point into three can be vital, and we’ve scored so many goals late on last season and again this year. They can be so important at the end of the season.’

Super-sub: Late goals by Edin Dzeko (right and below) against Fulham, West Brom and Spurs have proved invaluable

Kolo Toure recognises the signs.

The City defender was one of Arsenal’s Invincibles who went unbeaten to win the Premier League title, and he senses the same conviction within Mancini’s squad.

‘We just keep believing we will score,’ said Toure.

‘Teams coming here know we can score at any time. We’ve got that in our minds and the teams we play against know that as well.

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini

'Mancini time': Late goals have become a hallmark of the Mancini era at City

‘It was the same at Arsenal. We knew we could get the goal. We have the same mentality here. We never accept drawing or losing a game.’

Mancini marked his third anniversary in charge on Friday by talking about his success in changing the balance of power in Manchester.

Robin van Persie’s winner in the derby was a painful reminder that United still rule in ‘Fergie time’, but City are building an impressive record in what could become known as ‘Mancini time’.

Considering their strike rate in the last five minutes of games, it was staggering to see fans leaving the Etihad Stadium early.

‘We won the title in the last second,’ said Mancini. ‘We’ve also recovered a lot of games in the last three or four minutes.

'We know we can change every game right at the end.’

It earned grudging admiration from Brian McDermott but the dejected Reading boss criticised referee Mike Dean’s decision to deny his team a second-half penalty for Karim Rekik’s off-the-ball challenge on Jay Tabb and then to allow Barry’s header to stand.

A seventh straight Premier League defeat was cruel on Reading, although Nicky Shorey’s failure to challenge Barry for a magnificent cross from David Silva in the second of four added minutes made it difficult for Dean to award a foul.

McDermott said: ‘Manchester United notoriously score late goals. Manchester City scored a late goal last season which was quite important, apparently.

'That’s what top sides and top players do. But we didn’t deserve to lose.’

Furious: Reading manager Brian McDermott (left) gave grudgingly gave respect to Mancini's team but was angry at Barry's goal standing

Furious: Reading manager Brian McDermott (left) gave grudgingly gave respect to Mancini's team but was angry at Barry's goal standing

Chelsea 8 Aston Villa 0: Chelsea up to third

Chelsea 8 Aston Villa 0: Brilliant Blues back up to third after rout on Lampard landmark

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UPDATED:

22:21 GMT, 23 December 2012

A month ago, hate dripped from the steep tiers at Stamford Bridge as Rafa Benitez appeared on the touchline. Yesterday, the place was thrilled by eight goals. Not once did the Chelsea fans join in song to tell Benitez he wasn’t wanted here.

The last time they saw their team score this many was the final game of the Barclays Premier League season in 2010, when Carlo Ancelotti’s team walloped Wigan to celebrate the first leg of their first Double.

Landmark: Lampard (second left) scored on his 500th Premier League start

Landmark: Lampard (second left) scored on his 500th Premier League start

MATCH FACTS

Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole, Luiz, Lampard (Ramires 61), Moses, Mata (Piazon 74), Hazard, Torres (Oscar 67).

Subs not used: Turnbull, Ferreira, Marin, Ake.

Goals: Torres 3, David Luiz 29, Ivanovic 34, Lampard 58, Ramires 75, 90, Oscar (pen) 79, Hazard 83.

Aston Villa: Guzan, Herd, Clark, Baker, Lowton, Bannan, Westwood (Ireland 57), Lichaj (Elliott 57), Weimann, Holman (Bowery 79), Benteke.

Subs not used: Given, El Ahmadi, Albrighton, Delph.

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)

Attendance: 41,363.

Click here for the latest Premier League table, fixtures and results

But that was Carlo, a free-wheeling and popular manager who implored his players to attack. This was Rafa, a cautious tactician, always alert to danger, who sat down after an 8-0 win to say: ‘We knew they would be dangerous in the counter-attacks.’

Emotions were all over the place as post-Japan Chelsea returned to the Premier League in emphatic style by condemning Aston Villa to the biggest defeat in their 138-year history.

They may have arrived unbeaten in six games but Paul Lambert’s team went home perilously close to the drop zone with the worst goal difference in the division.

Villa were awful but Chelsea were slick and impressive.

There were eight goals from seven different scorers but there could have been many more.

The Blues even missed a penalty but go into Christmas 11 points behind leaders Manchester United with a game in hand at home to Southampton.

Opener: Fernando Torres got Chelsea off to a flying start

Opener: Fernando Torres got Chelsea off to a flying start

Opener: Fernando Torres got Chelsea off to a flying start

In a month of Benitez, Fernando Torres
has been transformed to the point where he seems to be enjoying his
football and refused to sulk off when he was replaced.

The Spain striker opened the scoring in the third minute, rising to meet a deep cross from Cesar Azpilicueta with a majestic header from the edge of the penalty area.

It was his seventh under the new manager and his seventh in the last six games.

‘He scores when he wants,’ sang the fans in the Matthew Harding Stand, saluting the Benitez factor without giving him credit.

This won’t bother the manager too much. He will take his satisfaction from the aggressive tempo which crushed Villa.

Stunner: Luiz hammered home a free-kick to double the lead

Stunner: Luiz hammered home a free-kick to double the lead

The back five have worked well for
Lambert since centre half and skipper Ron Vlaar was injured but Chelsea
forced them deep, creating space for Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Victor
Moses.

Villa lurched from uncertainty to
desperation. Nathan Baker escaped a strong penalty appeal when he
appeared to hold Torres and Chelsea’s second came when Chris Herd sent
Hazard tumbling.

David Luiz stepped up and scored the
free-kick, a shot which wobbled over the wall and beat goalkeeper Brad
Guzan, a good yard inside his post.

Three and easy: Ivanovic rises to head home

Three and easy: Ivanovic rises to head home

Luiz, signed almost two years ago at
the same time as Torres, has also endured an oscillating career at the
club but appears to have made significant progress under Benitez, who
used him as a deep midfielder yesterday in the absence of John Mikel
Obi, who was banned.

The role suits Luiz, certainly when
Chelsea control possession. He performed it with success against
Monterrey in the Club World Cup semi-final and was comfortable against
Villa.

There is a safety net if he takes an undue risk and loses the
ball, as he did at Leeds in the Capital One Cup, yet his team benefit
from his exuberance and unpredictability in attack.

Club legend: Lampard takes the applause before being substituted after his goal

Club legend: Lampard takes the applause before being substituted after his goal

Club legend: Lampard takes the applause before being substituted after his goal

It was one of those days for
Chelsea. Not only were the converted centre halves threatening Guzan in
the Villa goal but so were the unconverted ones.

Guzan produced a terrific reflex save
to beat out Gary Cahill’s shot on the spin before the interval but the
rebound popped up to his defensive partner Branislav Ivanovic to head in
the third.

Fear took hold, mistakes crept in and Christian Benteke never looked
like scoring. The only chance of any note fell to Andreas Weimann — on
the break, as Benitez predicted — in the second half.

Weimann was denied by Petr Cech, who
deflected his low shot on to the bar to protect his clean sheet, despite
the fact the contest was already over.

Joining the party: Ramires came off the bench to net the fifth

Joining the party: Ramires came off the bench to net the fifth

Frank Lampard scored the fourth with a
right-foot volley from 30 yards. It was his 190th goal for Chelsea —
three behind Kerry Dixon, who stands second in the all-time goal list
for the club — on his 500th Premier League start.

It
was also his 130th top-flight goal for the club. No one has more.
Lampard was replaced a minute later to a standing ovation. Torres was
also taken off to rest ahead of the festive fixtures which will dictate
whether this is to turn into a genuine title fightback.

Six of the best: Oscar scored from the penalty spot

Six of the best: Oscar scored from the penalty spot

With Daniel Sturridge in Liverpool for a
medical, Moses played the last 23 minutes at centre forward and the
Blues finished with a front four of Moses, Oscar, Hazard and Lucas
Piazon, an 18-year-old Brazilian making his Premier League debut.

It was a quartet with an average age
of just over 20 but Piazon wasted no time making an impact, collecting
the ball on the left, gliding inside and finding Ramires, who scored
the fifth. It was a nice pass but did not need to be laser-guided.

Seventh heaven: Hazard slams home from inside the box

Seventh heaven: Hazard slams home from inside the box

Villa were all at sea by this stage and not helped when referee Phil Dowd started to hand out soft penalties.

Herd
was penalised for a slight pull on Oscar, who picked himself up to make
it six from the spot. Hazard lashed the seventh into the top corner and
Piazon missed a second penalty after he was fouled by Ciaran Clark.
Guzan made the save.

It was a very strange afternoon for the American goalkeeper.

Ramires scored the eighth in stoppage time and the Bridge stood to rejoice. For the man they reviled as the Spanish waiter, will it be any different after eight
Relentless: Ramires scores his second in stoppage time

Relentless: Ramires scores his second in stoppage time

Rout: Chelsea move back up to third in the Premier League table

Rout: Chelsea move back up to third in the Premier League table

Andre Villas-Boas left to rue dropped Tottenham"s draw against Stoke

Villas-Boas left to rue dropped points as Spurs start festive season with a whimper

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UPDATED:

19:15 GMT, 22 December 2012

Andre Villas-Boas was disappointed to see Tottenham drop below Arsenal after his team were held to a goalless draw by stubborn Stoke at White Hart Lane.

Tottenham would have moved ahead of Chelsea into third had they won, but they ended the afternoon in fifth after their north London neighbours and Everton both recorded victories against Wigan and West Ham respectively.

Villas-Boas' men threw everything at the Potters, but they could not find their way through a defence the Tottenham boss had described as one of the best in Europe during the week.

Frustration: Andre Villas-Boas saw his side held at White Hart Lane

Frustration: Andre Villas-Boas saw his side held at White Hart Lane

The Staffordshire side showed exactly why they have the best defensive record in the league as Robert Huth, Ryan Shawcross and Asmir Begovic all put in towering performances to keep the likes of Jermain Defoe, Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor at bay.

Villas-Boas, whose side face Aston Villa on Boxing Day, was not happy at seeing his team slip below Arsenal on goal difference.

'No one enjoys being level on points with Arsenal at this club,' Villas-Boas said. 'I have experienced this rivalry for the first time this year and I have spoken very highly about it before.

'It is an extremely healthy competition between both teams, but we have to continue now. Today was a difficult game. Stoke are an extremely competitive and physical team who are difficult to break down.

'I want to be extremely positive as the players really tried hard.'

Adebayor and Defoe both had half-chances either side of the break, but Begovic was not really tested until injury time when he saved Gylfi Sigurdsson's header from close range. Stoke have built their eight-match unbeaten run around their solid defence, who have kept nine clean sheets this term.

Getting shirty: Gareth Bale has his shirt pulled by Stoke's Andy Wilkinson

Getting shirty: Gareth Bale has his shirt pulled by Stoke's Andy Wilkinson

Spurs had to resort to long shots for most of the match and Pulis was very happy with his team's shut out against one of the quickest attacks in the league.

'We are delighted. That's nine clean sheets now,' Pulis said. 'We look solid defensively. They had a few shots from outside box and that one great save from Asmir so we are very pleased with how we played.

'We talk about the two centre-halves and the goalkeeper, but I think all the players work so hard on organisation and discipline. It's a great point at a great football club.'

Referee Lee Mason had a busy afternoon, dishing out seven yellow cards – five of which came for the away side. The game threatened to boil over at times, particularly in the second half when Adebayor appeared to square up to Shawcross as they grappled in the box.

The issue of grappling in the box is a hot topic in football, and Villas-Boas thinks referees need to be more consistent.

Clash: Ryan Shawcross and Emmanuel Adebayor may be not be swapping Christmas cards this year

Clash: Ryan Shawcross and Emmanuel Adebayor may be not be swapping Christmas cards this year

He said: 'You have to take out the law (that punishes grappling) as if you pretend to be blind you have to take out the situation and move on.

'We had some given for us when Stoke were attacking but none in their box that could have given us a penalty. Those decisions are very hard to take, and maybe those ones are the stepping stone for people to start learning.'

The officials were at the centre of another controversy in the second half when Bale, who has been booked four times this year for diving, went down easily looking for a foul just outside the box.

Pulis launched an angry tirade at Bale from the sidelines when he went down, but the Stoke boss refused to be drawn on the matter afterwards.

'I will leave that. It's Christmas,' Pulis said.

Derby 1 Hull 2: Abdoulaye Faye scores winner

Derby 1 Hull 2: Bruce is back on top as Faye winner fires up Tigers

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UPDATED:

23:27 GMT, 21 December 2012

Steve Bruce brushed aside any thoughts of personal vindication as his Hull side jumped into the Championship’s promotion places.

The genial Geordie was facing life on the managerial scrapheap 12 months ago after being dumped by Sunderland.

But Bruce is not a man to sit licking his wounds for long. After four away victories on the trot only Cardiff are looking down on his team – and that by virtue of a superior goal difference.

Winner: Faye (second right) wheels away after scoring

Winner: Faye (second right) wheels away after scoring

MATCH FACTS

Derby: Legzdins, Brayford, Keogh, O'Connor, Roberts (Davies 87), Coutts, Bryson, Hughes, Hendrick, Jacobs (Robinson 78), Sammon.

Subs Not Used: Fielding, Tyson, O'Brien, Gjokaj, Freeman.

Goals: Jacobs 45.

Hull: Jakupovic, Chester, Hobbs, Faye, Elmohamady, Quinn, Evans, Brady, Meyler, Koren (Cairney 89), Simpson (Proschwitz 76).

Subs Not Used: Amos, Rosenior, Mclean, McShane, Olofinjana.

Booked: Chester, Meyler, Evans.

Goals: Koren 25, Faye 50.

Attendance: 25,442

Referee: Darren Sheldrake (Surrey).

Latest Championship table, fixtures and results

This was, in many ways, a classic away
victory at a ground where Nigel Clough has made his energetic and
youthful Derby side a tough nut to crack.

Indeed, this game was wide open at the interval. Robert Koren marked his
100th appearance for Hull with a 25th-minute goal following a
well-worked move.

On the stroke of half time Derby midfielder Michael Jacobs scored his
first goal for the club after controlling neatly and thumping home a
25-yard volley.

But Abdoulaye Faye’s 50th-minute header from the outstanding Robbie
Brady’s corner earned the division’s best travellers their seventh away
win.

‘It’s been some year,’ said Bruce. ‘For me, it was just a case of
whether I had the appetite for it but you know me. I want to work and
obviously I’m pleased.

‘But I’m more pleased for my owners Assem and Ehab Allam. I think they
have pumped something like 60million into Hull City. The club would
already be in oblivion without them.

‘Outside of Hull, nobody seems to give a damn about us. We were 33-1
shots for promotion at the start of the season and we have not been on
the radar but in our “principality of Hull” we are doing OK.’

Opener: Robert Koren gave Hull a first-half lead

Opener: Robert Koren gave Hull a first-half lead

The charge has been levelled at Bruce that he was too stuck in the past
to embrace new methods. But clarity of thought has seen him deploy three
centre halves.

Derby, reborn themselves under Clough, had lost only once in their last
11 home games prior to this. Clough’s side, who look vastly times
improved from the indisciplined, injury-ravaged crew he inherited four
years ago, had already allowed their concentration to lapse and fallen
behind after 25 minutes with what was, effectively, Hull’s first effort
on target.

Jacobs’ cracker levelled on the stroke of half time but once Faye converted there was no way back for the hosts.

Bruce was magnanimous at the final whistle, conceding that Derby had made life difficult for his team in the first half.

Clough was encouraged, too. The Derby manager said: ‘We have now lost
only two games at Pride Park this season. We must be doing something
right.’

Judging by the Championship table, so must Bruce.